Archbishop's aide is new watchdog on sleaze

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Indy Politics

The House of Commons has appointed a senior Church of England figure to take over from the outgoing standards commissioner, Elizabeth Filkin.

Philip Mawer, an aide to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was chosen as the new parliamentary commissioner for standards from a list of 63 candidates. Mr Mawer, 54, accepted the role, stressing his commitment to "public service" and "concern with moral and ethical behaviour in society".

His appointment comes after a damaging dispute between Mrs Filkin and the House of Commons Commission, which was accused of trying to undermine her independence.

Mr Mawer will face the task of restoring confidence in the scrutiny system, after Mrs Filkin was the target of a whispering campaign because she supposedly investigated MPs and ministers too rigorously.

Yesterday, Stuart Bell MP, a member of the House of Commons Commission, which nominated Mr Mawer, said he was "confident that in Mr Mawer we have a candidate of independence, strength and discretion.

"He is well able to undertake this exacting role and ensure the system of parliamentary self-regulation continues to work effectively, and is seen to do so, both inside and outside the House."

The new appointee, who will start work at the beginning of March, is currently the secretary general of the General Synod of the Church of England and secretary general of the Archbishop's Council.

A high-ranking civil servant, he has also been PPS to Douglas Hurd when Home Secretary and was seconded to work with Lord Scarman in investigating the Brixton riots.

Lord Scarman said at the time that Mr Mawer, who helped to draft his report, was "a very clever man and a very hard working man, with tremendous mastery of detail. He is a brilliant man in handling questions of principle."

Mr Mawer, who will earn £75,000 a year, will work only three days a week at first, even though his predecessor said the role was a full-time job.

MPs are expected to rubber-stamp Mr Mawer's appointment in the next few days.